• Samuel De Sira

Larch Valley

Technical Difficulty: Moderate

Endurance Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 8.6km

Type: Out & Back

Time: 2 to 4 hours

Elevation Gain: 535m

Located near Moraine Lake in Alberta, the Larch Valley trail is a very popular fall destination, and for good reason. When falls hits, the larch trees in this valley emanate an unbelievable display of jewel-tones, providing professional and amateur photographers alike with a playground of incredible imagery.

As the window to see the larches in all of their orange glory is small before snow fall hits, the destination can be rather difficult to see. The Moraine Lake car park fills up fast, and even if you leave early and are at the parking lot by 8am, you still might find yourself driving back down toward the overflow parking. Thankfully, if this does happen, you can catch the shuttle to Moraine instead. Alas, if you're as unlucky as me, you might find that the overflow and shuttle parking is also full, meaning the last resort is to return later in the day and try for a quick visit to see the larches. Don't worry, this is what I did, but I unfortunately didn't make it to Minnestima Lakes (distance above is based on here and back), having only a little time to see the valley, take it all in, and get back to the Moraine parking lot for the return shuttle. If this happens to you, appreciate what you can see, and waste as little time as you can on the way up getting to the Valley. It's still well worth it!

As I unfortunately didn't have the time to see everything I would have hoped for, I decided to waste no time on the way up. Once at the Valley however, I took my time exploring the rich jewel-toned environment and snapping all the photos I liked. I would suggest a 24-70mm lens. I made it up and down to the car park in less than two hours, but if you have more time I would suggest making it to Minnestima Lakes and even Sentinel Pass (Advanced difficulty trail, extra 5km round trip).

The colours on display in this valley are other-worldly, and really allow you to appreciate the beauty of fall. Hiking poles are not necessary but depending on fitness levels may help you, especially on the way back down.

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